“This Is a Skyscraper,” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

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There’s a terrific scene in the movie “Big,” in which Paul, the rival of Tom Hanks’ Josh, shares his silver-bullet idea for the upcoming year.

In the spirit of toys that transform, it’s a robot that turns into a… building.

Matthew Fenton Chicago Brand Strategy
“This is a skyscraper!” – the incomparable John Heard

“I don’t get it,” Josh famously says.  “There’s a million robots that turn into something.  This is a building that turns into a robot.  What’s fun about playing with a building?  That’s not any fun!”

“This is a skyscraper!” Paul insists.

Business leaders do a version of Paul all the time.  We ignore the potentially painful facts, because it’s easier to tell ourselves a glowing falsehood.

It sounds something like this:

“We’re the value leader!”

“Who wouldn’t love this product?”

“Design is what we do best.”

“Our culture is perfect and our employees are lucky to be here!”

“Our target audience is married men, and single men, aged 18-65.”

“We’re the service experts!”

“Our strategy is clearly defined and everyone is on-board.”

There’s a simple cure for this self-deception:


Ask your current customers, even the loyal ones, if you really are the service experts.  You may be surprised by what they say.

Then ask the customers you’ve lost what they think of your service.

Ask your employees how lucky they feel.  Ask them how clear your strategies are.

Ask.  Then listen.  Without defenses or bias.  Just ask and listen.

Do this often.  Only good things will happen as a result.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands, including Wrigley, Valvoline and Fidelity Investments, to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here. He’s based near Portland, in Oregon wine country.

Copyright 2018 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.